Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Masterworks

Mahmoud Sabri, Al Mawt Al-Tafl (The Death of a Child), 1963
Launch Slideshow

Held alongside the Arts of the Islamic World and the Orientalist Sale during our Orientalist and Middle Eastern Art week, the 20th Century Art / Middle East sale will feature the rarest and most sought after artists from the modern era to the contemporary period. We are delighted to present a cohort of masterworks spanning an array of countries and regions rarely seen, including works by Hassan Sharif, Abdulrahman Al Soleiman, Mahmoud Mokhtar, Mahmoud Sabri and Etel Adnan.

Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Masterworks

  • Mahmoud Sabri, Al Mawt al-Tafl (The Death of a Child). Estimate £350,000–500,000.
    Through the creative combination of a Soviet Realist artistic canon with that of Russian Orthodox icons, Mahmoud Sabri’s early artistic output would result in idiosyncratic paintings that depicted the harsh realities of Iraqi life under the Ba’ath regime. The symbolic quality of his work had an almost cinematic and propagandist quality, not dissimilar to war posters. The Death of a Child, painted during Sabri’s earlier artistic phase in the 1960s, stands as an epitome for this artistic openness which was exacerbated by his socialist ideals and a career in exile.
  • Manoucher Yektai, Untitled, 1958. Estimate £50,000–70,000.
    The Iranian born Manoucher Yektai is counted as an adherent of the New York school of Abstract Expressionism. Between 1951 to 1952 the Italian-American art dealer Leo Castelli, introduced some friends, including a number of early Abstract-Expressionist painters, to Yektai's shows in New York. Castelli took the artist to the 8th Street Club in 1951 which led to friendships with Rothko, Tobey, and Guston among others. Unlike his expressionist contemporaries, Yektai's work can be seen to reflect a different philosophy and subject matter, depicting a stronger emphasis towards nature and the beauty in everyday life.
  • Huguette Caland, Untitled, 1973. Estimate £120,000–180,000.
    Huguette Caland has proved to be one of the most influential feminist icons and artists to come from modern Lebanon. Her enthrallingly audacious work is often described as “unequivocally sexual, and yet … not obscene” (Aram Moshayedi, Huguette Caland, Everything Takes the Shape of a Person, 1970-78, Milan 1973, p. 16) , being imbued with a subtle wittiness that skirts the scandalous. This approach is evident in the Untitled pictured here. Hinting at womanly curves and carefully drawing one’s gaze, Caland’s use of lines is where her genius lies, channeling an erotic energy that could otherwise run rampant across the canvas.
  • Etel Adnan, Untitled, 1960s. Estimate £35,000–45,000.
    With delicate and luminous colours reminiscent of the Californian landscape, the present two works were painted between the 1960’s and 1990’s by Etel Adnan during her time in the Bay area. This landscape features prominently in Adnan’s works, particularly Mount Tamalpais which lied on the outskirts of Sausalito, where she moved in the 1970s. This place was, as she described to Hans Ulricht Obrist, “[her] house… It was an absolute. It was a painting”, (Etel Adnan. Stories. Maharam, online). Indeed, one can imagine the outline of a mountain in Untitled and see tangible influences of the waterside area in Journey to the East, where a sailboat emerges from a tumbling sea of bright colors.
  • Mahmoud Mokhtar, The Three Beggars, circa 1929-1930. Estimate £80,000–120,000.
    Mahmoud Mokhtar remains Egypt’s most significant modern sculptor. In The Three Beggars, Mokhtar depicts three men wearing long galabia cloaks and tight turbans – a prevalent style of Egyptian dress. Unlike other contemporaneous Egyptian sculpture, the monumental reference to pharaonic Egypt is not present in this sculpture which instead seeks to depict an austere vulnerability. The bearded man with the walking stick knows the path and calls out whilst the younger men follow his lead. Each leaning on each other for guidance and support.
  • Inji Efflatoun, Untitled (Feloukas on the Nile), 1968. Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    Inji Efflatoun was an artist and a political feminist who sought female empowerment in 20th century Egyptian society. Efflatoun, being a staunch Marxist since her early school days, was artistically inspired by the societal realities of Egyptian women and the working class, which she found lived in stark contrast to her haute bourgeois lifestyle. In a 1987 interview with Betty Duke , Efflatoun outline her reasons for embracing communism; “I began to question, why there is such a big difference between rich and poor? At first I was an anarchist in my views; then Marxism became my guide for social solutions.”
  • Ahmed Mater, White Antenna, 2010. Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    Ahmed Mater is considered as one of the most influential contemporary Saudi artists. Mater has cofounded Edge of Arabia, an independent arts initiative that seeks to promote contemporary Arab art and culture. In White Antenna, Mater depicts a boy lifting a battered TV antenna to the sky in search of a signal. According to Stephen Stapleton, one of the cofounders of Edge of Arabia, the boy in Mater’s image “is searching, like so many of his generation in Saudi, for ideas, for music, for poetry–for a glimpse of a different kind of life."
  • Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Untitled, 1988. Estimate £45,000–60,000.
    Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim studied art at the Emirates Fine Arts Society in 1986, mentored by artist and friend Hassan Sharif and the by the avant-garde poet, Ahmed Rashid Thani. Ibrahim’s works are directly informed by his surroundings in Khor Fakkan, a coastal town uniquely positioned between the Indian Ocean and the Hajar Mountains. His works seek to address an uncomfortable truth, the impacts of modern urban development upon the natural landscape. As stated in his artist statement "The contradictions and clashes in my works are uncomfortable, but they are catalysts for the tensions that I use in sharpening and honing my relationship to the environment and nature." (Ibrahim, M. A, 2018, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim- Elements. Sharjah Art Foundation, pg. 11.)
  • Abdulrahman Al Soliman, A swab on the head of an orphan, 1980. Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    Abdulrahman Al Soliman’s paintings demonstrates a creatively mimetic quality and are strongly inspired by European Cubists, namely Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Al Soliman’s artistic influences can perhaps best be explained by his multifaceted contribution to the art scene, being an accomplished artist, critic and author. In his role as an art critic he published The March of Saudi Art in 2000 which serves as an in-depth examination of Saudi art as well as a trove of information pertaining to emerging artists. Currently Al Soliman is the Fine Arts Editor for Al Yaum Newspaper and has been in his role since 1983.
  • Mamdouh Ammar, Ta'mulat (Contemplations), 1982. Estimate £18,000–25,000.
    Mamdouh Ammar is a prolific Egyptian modernist artist whose career spans six decades. His work seeks to explore the fundamental traditions and rituals that define Egypt with an emphasis, on human frailty and suffering. In Contemplations, the overcast sky complements the leathery browns of the foreground, all providing a stark contrast with the separately seated women clad in white galabeya. Disparately placed pot plants and trellis hint at lost domestic traditions and adds a surrealism that permeates the painting. An aching affection for a folkloric past is overhung by disorientation and dissolution. A hauntingly beautiful piece, Contemplations is an ode to a lost past and an unknown future.
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